Colorlines tackles race science

Colorlines magazine has a great article on genetics, science and race called Genetic Drift by Ziba Kashef. Go read it now!

Not only is the article good in both accepting that biological sciences have disproved race but also drawing out those stalwarts who are still so certain of racial difference. I often do not see race policy publications tackle this tenuous subject and I applaud Colorlines for doing so. Here are a couple of my favorite bits:

On forensics use of racial markers:

Such racialized forensics presents multiple problems for people of color. It blurs the line between DNA tests that can definitively rule out suspects (as in the Innocence Project) and less certain analyses that “predict” or state the probability of a match. It gives scientific legitimacy to the widespread but still controversial notion that certain genetic differences, or markers, correlate precisely with geographic regions and modern racial categories. Further, it makes acceptable manhunts for “ancestry informative markers,” a euphemism for racial identifiers in genes despite the many pitfalls of old-fashioned racial profiling. Worse still, it creates a market for a growing list of genetic services that may, at best, be good guesses but not definitive.

On medical science’s recent trend in ignoring other environmental and biological factors:

[This] is illustrated by the controversial race drug BiDil. Developed to address the greater mortality from heart failure among African Americans, the drug has been met with both celebration and skepticism. While it is true that Blacks ages 45 to 64 are more than twice as likely to die from heart failure than whites, Duster points out that the disparity narrows after age 65. The disparity may have less to do with biology and race than other documented factors in heart disease, such as diet, stress and lifestyle. Evidence outside of the U.S. also undermines the rationale for a race-based approach to the condition. Citing the data of epidemiologist Richard S. Cooper, who compared hypertension rates worldwide, Duster explains, “Germany has the highest rate of hypertension, and Nigeria has the lowest rate. It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in epidemiology to figure out what might be the issue there. It can’t be race and genetics.”

A lot of the issues touched on in this article, I plan to expose at greater length in this blog. Namely, an explanation of what “race” markers are and how they are abused. And as an extension, an attack on those ancestry websites that collect your DNA and spit back at you a neat little pie chart of your racial make-up. Stay tuned…

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